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Climate Change

Projects

Belowground plant structures support aboveground regeneration in ecosystems around the world.  More research is needed to document and understand the anatomy, physiology, demography and ecological role of belowground plant organs.  By working with a global network of scientists we aim to provide research, syntheses and protocols on belowground plant traits.
In 1968, thirteen permanent research plots were established in Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir forests along an elevational gradient on the Fraser Experimental Forest. Seed traps were installed on these plots and have been sampled annually since 1968.  
Using structured decision making (SDM) can change how resource managers make decisions by separating the clinical problem analysis from the value based decision process. In a natural resource management setting, SDM necessitates making decisions based on clearly articulated objectives, recognizing scientific prediction in decisions, addressing uncertainty explicitly, and responding with transparency towards societal values in decision making. When used as an overarching framework, natural resource managers can be better equipped to identify, critique, and discuss sources and implications of uncertainty and thus improve decision-making.
Thousand cankers disease is threatening walnut trees (Juglans spp.) throughout the United States. The disease is caused by the fungal pathogen Geosmithia morbida and the associated insect vector the walnut twig beetle (Pityophthorus juglandis). Declining walnut trees were noticed in the western United States in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the disease was not described until 2008. Throughout the last decade, thousand cankers disease has expanded. Currently, it compromises native and planted walnut stands throughout most of the western United States, several eastern states within native range of the black walnut, as well as Italy. 
Forbs are an integral component of terrestrial ecosystems and critical to pollinator health. However, we know very little about the biology of native forbs. Such knowledge is a prerequisite to developing restoration programs that use diverse forb species in restoration seeding.
Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists partnered with a company called Apex Resource Management Solutions (commonly known as “Apex”) to use a software-based ecological simulation tool called ST-Sim, which is short for state-and-transition simulation model. Using computer-aided modeling, land management teams can use ST-Sim to document or justify management actions in forthcoming forest plans and NEPA documentation. ST-Sim allows managers to ask landscape-wide “what-if” questions based on different management regimes and land treatments while estimating interactions with expected climate changes.
Ecosystems are increasingly threatened by fire, insects, disease, invasive species, drought, and climate change. Shifting landscapes and interactive disturbances challenge land managers who must meet particular land management objectives. Three concurrent activities are helping managers access adaptation strategies and tactics that can address ongoing challenges to forest and grassland productivity, resilience and restoration.
Using a newly developed decision support tool, RMRS scientist Megan Friggens and collaborators have conducted case study assessments in National Forests in the SW. Working closely with National Forest staff, they assessed the vulnerability of several landscapes to the interactive effect of changing fire and climate regimes. During interactive assessment sessions, they also quantified the potential effectiveness of management strategies for reducing landscape vulnerability.
The concepts of ecological resilience and resistance to invasive annual grasses have been used to develop an understanding of sagebrush ecosystem response to disturbances like wildfire and management actions to reduce fuels and restore native ecosystems. A multi-scale framework that uses these concepts to prioritize areas for conservation and restoration at landscape scales and to determine effective management strategies at local scales has been developed by Chambers and her colleagues. Regional SageSTEP (Sagebrush Treatment Evaluation Project) data coupled with west-wide AIM (Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring) data provide a unique opportunity to refine the predictors of resilience and resistance and extend the existing multi-scale framework effort.
The researchers are completing a series of riparian and groundwater-dependent ecosystem assessments for National Forests in the USFS Intermountain Region. Each assessment summarizes drivers, stressors, and current condition of these systems in relation to the natural range of variation within each forest. The reports directly inform the assessment phase of forest plan revision and continue to be produced on a schedule in line with the Region’s forest planning process.

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